A dental abscess, or tooth abscess, is an accumulation of pus that gathers inside the teeth or gums. They occur when proper oral hygiene is neglected, and when plaque is allowed to accumulate inside the tooth or gums. This results in a bacterial infection, often one that has accumulated in the soft pulp of the teeth.
While a fairly common occurrence, left untreated, a tooth abscess can be extremely dangerous, and even life threatening.
In 2007, one 12 year old boy in Maryland died because the infection caused by a tooth abscess spread to his brain. While his case in particular drew widespread media attention, studies show that deaths from these preventable infections aren’t as uncommon as we once thought. The number of Americans hospitalized because of tooth abscesses is on the rise, and likewise, so are the number of deaths.
According to the statistics, the number of people hospitalized due to dental abscesses increased by more than 40% between 2000 and 2008, from 5,757 in 2000 to 8,141 in 2008. Some 66 people died after they were hospitalized.
But why are people being hospitalized—and possibly even dying—over such a preventable dental condition?
Some say lack of money and access.
When money and access aren’t problems, an abscessed tooth can easily be treated with a root canal or an extraction. But increasingly, Americans are relying on emergency rooms for dental care before turning to a dentist—a trend exacerbated by lack of insurance coverage and trouble paying out of pocket. In 2009 alone, preventable dental conditions accounted for 830,590 emergency room visits.
But Is Lack of Money and Access Really the Problem?
While numbers don’t lie, we also have to take into consideration the fact that many of these patients avoid routine dental care, and only look for help once something is bothering them or they’re in pain. These patients put off a visit until their faces are swollen or they can’t breathe, and then they run to the nearest hospital.
But there is a better way!
Sure, emergency dental procedures can be costly, but preventative treatment never is.
How to Prevent Dental Abscesses
Preventing a dental abscess is not difficult to do. Following good oral hygiene practices, such as brushing twice daily, flossing once daily and rinsing with an antibacterial mouthwash can go a long way towards preventing tooth abscesses, not to mention towards preventing any complicated oral health problems from occurring in the future. Some other measures you can take include:
- Use fluoridated drinking water
- Replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months, or when the bristles become frayed
- Eliminate sugary snacks and eat only healthy foods
- Consider using an antiseptic or a fluoride mouth rinse to give your teeth additional protection against tooth decay
- Visit your dentist for regular checkups and cleanings. While the average dental checkup (which includes x-rays, exam and cleaning) costs around $180, the average cost of a tooth extraction is $150-$400, and the average cost of a root canal is $400-$1400, though we’ve heard of people paying as high as $4000. These latter costs do not include the costs of tooth replacement or restorative measures.
Signs and Symptoms of a Dental Abscess
If you experience any of the following in conjunction with a severe toothache, call a dentist right away:
- Intense throbbing pain. The pain usually starts suddenly and becomes more intense over subsequent hours or days. In some cases, the pain may radiate to the ear, jawbone or neck.
- Pain in the affected area when biting
- Pain when touching the affected area
- Sudden sensitivity to cold or hot food or liquids
- A foul taste in your mouth
- Feeling generally unwell
- Difficulty opening your mouth
- Difficulty swallowing
When to Get Help
Dental abscesses are a serious condition, and they should not be taken lightly. If you experience any of the above symptoms, have a slight tooth infection, or suspect that you have a dental abscess, do not wait until your mouth is swollen and the pain is unbearable to call your dentist! Call your dentist at the first signs of a problem, as dentists are the only ones who can treat the infected tooth and get you back on the road to good health right away.
While many people turn to the ER in times of pain and infection, the ER can only do so much. They can drain the pus from your mouth, but they cannot treat the tooth. The problem will come back.
The best thing you can do for your guaranteed health – and we cannot stress this enough – is prevent dental abscesses from occurring in the first place. It’s imperative to see your dentist every six months as recommended, as we can both detect and prevent severe dental problems.
Let Us Help
At Paragon Dental, we believe in helping each and every one of our patients live a long, healthy and happy life. We do this by offering the care and treatment they need to do so. If you suspect that you suffer from or are forming a dental abscess, give us a call right away. We will work with you to get you the treatment you need so you can get back to a healthy state and on with your life as quickly as possible. http://www.paragondentalinc.com/contact/